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Dan Bickley

Despite Phoenix owning No. 1 pick, Lakers overshadow Suns (again)

Referee Marat Kogut (32) rushes in to get between Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, second from left, and Los Angeles Lakers' Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, second from right, and Julius Randle, right, as the players exchange words during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, in Phoenix. The Lakers defeated the Suns 100-93. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Valley is haunted by villains. David Stern, Barry Bonds, Robert Horry. Dodgers who soiled our pool and Steelers who stole our Super Bowl.

But nobody can ruin a party like Lakers fans.

This reminder comes as the NBA’s offseason prepares to take over the sporting landscape. The Suns control the draft, but the Lakers control the conversation. The Suns have the No. 1 overall pick, but the Lakers could end up with the No. 1 player in the world.

The Suns will likely select Deandre Ayton, a 7-foot monster who occasionally dominated for the University of Arizona. The Lakers could land LeBron James and Paul George in the coming weeks, and sign Kawhi Leonard by 2019, at the latest.

It’s further proof that nothing can shake your faith like the NBA.

A superteam in Los Angeles suddenly seems like a foregone conclusion. The entrepreneurial ambitions of James almost guarantee a move to L.A., where prominent business leaders are expecting his arrival. Leonard reportedly wants out of San Antonio at all costs and prefers a trade to Tinsel Town. George is a free agent who grew up dreaming of playing for the Lakers. The trio of superstars rank among the best defenders in basketball, the perfect nucleus to dethrone the dynasty in Golden State.

You should expect nothing less from James.

A new superteam in Los Angeles would infuriate diehard basketball fans. NBA history is full of great teams that set the bar impossibly high, but those dynasties had an organic feel. Superteams feel shameless and contrived, the result of players conspiring to find the path of least resistance in the most desirable NBA cities.

The Lakers have done nothing to deserve an overnight contender other than their proximity to Hollywood and the Pacific Ocean. That’s what makes this current trend so maddening and deflating to NBA fans who don’t reside in glamour cities.

James is impervious to public criticism, even though his brand of trend-setting has caused terrible damage to the league. If his wanderlust leads him to Los Angeles, the Lakers will be a huge draw on television and in visiting arenas. But the pain in Phoenix will be profound.

The Valley will soon be overrun by the worst of bandwagon fans, the legion of Lakers fans lying dormant in the Valley. You will recognize them by price tags hanging out of their replica jerseys. They will overtake Talking Stick Resort Arena, infuriating Devin Booker.

Meanwhile, the LeBron Lakers would become just another obstacle blocking our path, delaying #TheTimeline, compounding our misery, as usual.

Our luck seemingly changed when the Suns won the draft lottery on May 15. It was payback for losing a coin flip for the rights to draft Lew Alcindor in 1968. No other expansion franchise has suffered a crueler blow out of the gate. Fifty years later, the Suns are still seeking their first championship.

The Lakers have won 10 titles since 1980. They’ve thrown monsters into our nightmares, cornering the market on impact centers like Wilt, Kareem and Shaq. They’ve been blessed with Magic, Kobe, and the Logo (Jerry West). Their franchise has spawned six people immortalized with statues outside the Staples Center.

And just when Phoenix is poised to unleash a No. 1 draft pick on the basketball world, the Lakers might trump the Suns once again, flashing an even better hand.

We know what it’s like to lose games to the Lakers. Now Phoenix is losing headlines, as well. After waiting 50 years for the first pick in the draft, the conversation has suddenly shifted to a potential superteam in Los Angeles.

Either way, LeBron James is dominating the offseason once again. And he might end up on our list of Most Wanted, another villain in our path.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier